Airport miscues sparked delay for Marines
Oakland, Calif., International Airport officials say security concerns and a lack of communication led them to isolate a group of Kaneohe Marines returning from Iraq, keeping many of them away from loved ones.
An estimated 200 troops on a military jet charter flown by North American Airlines last Thursday had to wait on the tarmac during a layover in Oakland. The snub has led to criticism from politicians and unwanted media attention for the airport.
Airport officials said yesterday they were not warned ahead of time that family members and friends had planned to meet the returning Kaneohe Marines during the layover.
Deborah Ale-Flint, assistant director of aviation at Oakland International Airport, said a military jet charter flown by North American Airlines parked away from the main terminal because the passengers were carrying weapons and had not been screened by the Transportation Security Administration at an earlier stopover in New York.
The Marines were members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, assigned to Kaneohe Bay, and were on their way back from Iraq. The chartered jet stopped in Oakland to be refueled, cleaned and restocked with food.
The battalion of nearly 1,000 Kaneohe Marines has been in Iraq for the past seven months. The bulk of the battalion is expected to return within the next two weeks.
Ale-Flint said Hilltop Aviation, which coordinated the aircraft arrangements and passenger handling for this flight, had not told Oakland officials that family and friends were on hand to meet the Marines during their 2 1/2-hour layover.
In a written statement, she said, "If this information had been shared in advance, there would have been a different outcome."
Airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said a handful of troops were permitted into the terminal; most were served food, provided restrooms and permitted to smoke outdoors on the tarmac near their charter plane.
Oakland Mayor Ron Deludes said he has directed the city-managed airport to "look into these matters and work closely with airport personnel to ensure that this type of situation never happens again."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.